Salvatore

I’m an assistant D.A., a lawyer in other words, and people don’t think too highly of us. But let me tell you something: the rest of society doesn’t seem, from a lawyer’s point of view, to necessarily have its act together either. Maybe it takes a lawyer to get an honest picture of things, without any prettyfication. I mean, we encounter all types from the worst angle. We’re presented with every conceivable, or at least every conceived, perversion. Let me just give you an example, and you tell me what you think. A man by the name of Salvatore comes down to the office to talk to us about our case prosecuting Rudey Baker, the young upstanding citizen who sliced that cheerleader to pieces over in Madison last year. Turns out Mr. Salvatore is the girl’s father. He wants to know if we can allow him to make a request regarding the sentence we’re going to ask for. I tell him we’ll be glad to follow his wishes. Those were my exact words, and I wouldn’t have said them if I hadn’t thought I understood. And I probably shouldn’t have said them anyway. But the next thing I know Mr. Salvatore is requesting that we not ask for the death penalty, not ask for the maximum prison time, and recommend for future consideration the reintegration program (which is that newly instituted system wherein criminals, even sometimes violent ones, are given assistance finding employment, but are closely supervised). Now, Mr. Salvatore was dressed like a wealthy man, but you never can tell. It might have been he’d seen a new suit as a reasonable investment. I asked him whether there was anything we could do to assist his family in their time of grief – did they have any financial difficulties, for instance? “No, thank you, but no,” he said. And he didn’t seem the type to forego justice for an unnecessary little gain. I mean, if he was motivated by the restitution payments Rudey Baker would make once employed, there had to be some sort of crisis he was hiding. If so, he hid it well. “Did you ever meet Baker?” I asked him. He said he hadn’t, and asked what I knew about the man.

Just then Ms. Dalena approached us, and reproved me for asking Mr. Salvatore such a question. She introduced herself to Salvatore, and told him that Baker was, naturally, a pretty unlikable character. “But,” she said, “I’m sure you don’t want to know about that.” I told her what Salvatore had requested, regarding the sentencing. For a while Ms. Dalena said nothing. Then she almost asked the same thing I had: whether he knew anything at all about the killer. But instead she stopped and asked him “Why?”

“Well, why not?” was Salvatore’s reply. He didn’t say it quickly though, like a cliche’. “That seems to me the question,” he said. “I have no desire to harm Mr. Baker. Do you? And if so, why?” Salvatore spoke loudly, even relative to a bunch of lawyers, and a few of the people in the office started listening to him. “Mr. Baker may be dangerous,” he said. “If so, we need to protect other people, and possibly Baker himself, from that danger. Mr. Baker may need to be punished in order to deter others from doing what he did.” That’s how he put it: “what he did.” Salvatore went on, addressing himself to a half-dozen people now: “Once we have acted in the interests of safety and deterrence, we need to act in the interest of Mr. Baker. He, after all, is what we are concerned with here. I would like to explicitly decline any payments of compensation. I don’t need it, and I cannot be compensated. My daughter no longer exists. She cannot be replaced, and she cannot be benefited. Does that seem inhuman to say? Check my DNA, you won’t find I’m a chimpanzee. Do I sound uncaring about my daughter’s life? Is that why I must be insulted with these inquiries as to my motives? Where’s the gain for this nut? Is it money? Is he an old friend of the killer? Please. No hard feelings, but save such stuff for the courtroom. None of you has seen me without these bags under my eyes, none of you knows where they’ve come from. My wife could tell you that I’ve slept no more than a total of five hours this week. She could tell you, though she won’t, that I’ve thought more than I should have of suicide. Don’t sympathize. Don’t try to represent